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WAR IN EUROPE

Zelensky, Ramaphosa cement SA’s role in Ukraine peace plan, talk Middle East crisis in ‘fruitful’ call

Zelensky, Ramaphosa cement SA’s role in Ukraine peace plan, talk Middle East crisis in ‘fruitful’ call
Illustrative image: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Stephanie Lecocq) | President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Katlholo Maifadi / Dirco)

The Ukrainian president said Ramaphosa had agreed to continue participating in Ukraine’s peace initiative.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had what he called a “lengthy and fruitful call” with President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday night and noted that “relations between Ukraine and South Africa keep building up on all levels”.

Zelensky posted on X, formerly Twitter, that he had welcomed South Africa’s participation in Ukraine’s Peace Formula talks and had thanked Ramaphosa for confirming that Pretoria would participate in the next rounds of the talks.

South Africa participated in the first two rounds, in Copenhagen and in Jeddah, with delegations headed by Ramaphosa’s national security adviser, Sydney Mufamadi. The Peace Formula essentially demands the withdrawal of all Russian troops from Ukraine to end the war. But it also contains other smaller elements and the talks are structured in a way that allows participating countries to contribute to only some elements if they want to.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ukraine crisis archives

Ukraine sees South Africa as contributing to the efforts to return Ukrainian children abducted by Russia, to the exchange of prisoners of war and to the resumption of grain supplies from Ukraine to international markets which have been interrupted by the war. South African officials, seemingly reluctant to show too much enthusiasm for Zelensky’s Peace Formula, point out that South Africa is already involved in those issues as they figure prominently in the agenda of the seven-nation African Peace Mission, which Ramaphosa is leading. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently terminated the Black Sea Grain Initiative in which Russia selectively lifted its blockade of Ukrainian ports to allow for the export of grain. As a condition for allowing the grain initiative to continue, Putin demanded the lifting of Western sanctions against Russia which he said were impeding its own grain and other food exports.

The African leaders urged Putin to revive the initiative when they met him in St Petersburg on the margins of the Russia-Africa summit in July, but he refused. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: War in Ukraine

Zelensky then initiated his own Black Sea export corridor through which Ukraine has exported smaller amounts of grain. 

In his X post on Tuesday night Zelensky said: “We both agreed on the importance of continued Ukrainian food exports for global and Africa’s food security and the functioning of Ukraine’s Black Sea export corridor. I invited South Africa to our second ‘Grain from Ukraine’ summit. 

“We also discussed the developments in the Middle East and their implications for regional and global security, as well as ways to evacuate South African citizens.”

Daily Maverick asked the Presidency for comment but had not received any before publication. DM

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